Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a note issued to investors on Wednesday. The brokerage currently has a $69.00 price target on the stock. Zacks Investment Research’s price target points to a potential upside of 11.83% from the stock’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “Merck’s third-quarter results were strong, with the company beating on all fronts and slightly raising both its sales and earnings outlook for the year. The latest FDA approval of Keytruda for the first line treatment of metastatic lung cancer should sharply improve the drug’s sales. New products, especially Keytruda should continue to contribute meaningfully to the top line. Merck has also made significant progress with its pipeline and is working on bringing new products to the market. Merck will continue to focus on cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom line. The company has also been pursuing acquisitions and business development deals to boost its pipeline. However, generic competition and pricing pressure will continue to pressurize the top line. Nasonex and Cubicin lost patent exclusivity in 2016 which is hurting sales.”

Other equities research analysts also recently issued reports about the stock. Barclays PLC upped their price objective on shares of Merck & Co. from $66.00 to $72.00 and gave the stock an “overweight” rating in a research report on Friday, September 9th. Jefferies Group upped their price objective on shares of Merck & Co. from $53.00 to $57.00 and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, August 8th. Morgan Stanley set a $60.00 price objective on shares of Merck & Co. and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research report on Tuesday, September 13th. Sanford C. Bernstein reaffirmed an “outperform” rating and issued a $74.00 price objective (up from $66.00) on shares of Merck & Co. in a research report on Thursday, August 11th. Finally, Vetr raised shares of Merck & Co. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $66.07 price objective for the company in a research report on Tuesday, November 15th. Twelve investment analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and ten have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. Merck & Co. presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $66.24.

Analyst Recommendations for Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK)

Shares of Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) opened at 61.70 on Wednesday. The firm has a market capitalization of $170.12 billion, a P/E ratio of 31.51 and a beta of 0.76. Merck & Co. has a 12 month low of $47.97 and a 12 month high of $65.46. The firm’s 50-day moving average is $61.70 and its 200 day moving average is $59.95.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) last posted its earnings results on Tuesday, October 25th. The company reported $1.07 EPS for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.99 by $0.08. The company earned $10.50 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $10.17 billion. Merck & Co. had a net margin of 13.76% and a return on equity of 24.25%. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was up 4.6% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the previous year, the firm posted $0.96 earnings per share. On average, equities research analysts anticipate that Merck & Co. will post $3.78 EPS for the current year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, January 9th. Stockholders of record on Thursday, December 15th will be issued a $0.47 dividend. This is a positive change from Merck & Co.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.46. This represents a $1.88 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 3.05%. Merck & Co.’s dividend payout ratio is presently 93.88%.

In related news, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 39,200 shares of the stock in a transaction on Thursday, September 1st. The shares were sold at an average price of $62.61, for a total transaction of $2,454,312.00. Following the transaction, the executive vice president now owns 39,200 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $2,454,312. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, Chairman Kenneth C. Frazier sold 140,000 shares of the stock in a transaction on Thursday, November 10th. The shares were sold at an average price of $65.03, for a total transaction of $9,104,200.00. Following the transaction, the chairman now directly owns 514,957 shares in the company, valued at approximately $33,487,653.71. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 0.05% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

Several institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in MRK. Boston Advisors LLC raised its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 512.1% in the second quarter. Boston Advisors LLC now owns 374,199 shares of the company’s stock worth $21,558,000 after buying an additional 313,068 shares during the period. Seminole Management Co. Inc. purchased a new stake in shares of Merck & Co. during the second quarter worth about $19,783,000. Badgley Phelps & Bell Inc. raised its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 14.4% in the second quarter. Badgley Phelps & Bell Inc. now owns 5,225 shares of the company’s stock worth $301,000 after buying an additional 657 shares during the period. Raymond James Trust N.A. raised its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 3.3% in the second quarter. Raymond James Trust N.A. now owns 337,745 shares of the company’s stock worth $19,457,000 after buying an additional 10,865 shares during the period. Finally, Headinvest LLC raised its stake in shares of Merck & Co. by 0.8% in the second quarter. Headinvest LLC now owns 26,245 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,512,000 after buying an additional 200 shares during the period. 73.25% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors.

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About Merck & Co.

Merck & Co, Inc is a global healthcare company. The Company offers health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, which it markets directly and through its joint ventures. It operates through one segment, Pharmaceutical. The Company’s Pharmaceutical segment includes human health pharmaceutical and vaccine products marketed either directly by the Company or through joint ventures.

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